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Sydney Romero Brings The Oklahoma Way To Duke Softball

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(Photo courtesy of Duke Athletics)

Duke is well known in the world of college sports for its athletic prowess, and now the Blue Devils softball program is a part of that reputation as well.

And it is no accident that head softball coach Marissa Young has attracted some of the top coaching talent over the program's history. That talent includes Sydney Romero, who had one of the most successful playing careers in college softball history. Romero is now a key force behind Duke's recent emergence as a college softball power.

After spending seven years at the University of Oklahoma as both a player and graduate assistant coach, Romero joined Young’s staff last summer. For Romero, the jump made sense given that she felt a similarity between herself and Young—both were star college players who came from winning cultures and share several philosophies on and off the field.

“Coach Young had reached out, and I think just knowing who (she) was and her history playing at Michigan, she's a big deal,” Romero said. “I was kind of in those same shoes. Knowing that I can be a part of helping her grow the culture and build the standards (was exciting to me). She's done an amazing job.”

Romero won two national championships for the Sooners as a player and added two more as a graduate assistant coach on Patty Gasso’s staff.

As an integral part of one of the most storied programs in the sport, Romero learned what she calls the “Oklahoma way.”

“(Oklahoma's program) is built on standards and tradition and culture,” the two-time First-Team All-American said. “And I think that the players there have done a good job of maintaining that, and we all know how Coach Gasso works.”

While Romero wants to bring what she learned in Norman, Okla. to Durham, N.C., she understands that you cannot replicate a program.

“I don't want to think like the Oklahoma way is the Duke way,” Romero said. “They're just two completely separate things. But (I) also just (want) to give all the information that I've learned (to Duke's players).”

The intersection of the Oklahoma way and the Duke way occurred early in Romero’s coaching career with her new team. During the first weekend of the season, the Blue Devils and Sooners faced off in the Mark Campbell Invitational in Irvine, Calif.

The 4-0 loss for the ACC team to the Big 12 powerhouse brought about strange feelings for Romero.

“It was really cool to see them compete, and I will say it was a little weird not being next to Coach Gasso in the dugout,” the California product said. “But I'm a competitor and I was going out to win and I (always) want to win. It was just really cool to be able to play my old university.”

Romero’s competitiveness is translating to on-the-field success for Duke. Anchored by a young core of underclassmen talent, including infielder Ana Gold and Aminah Vega, the No. 9 Blue Devils are off to a 28-8 start overall and 10-5 start in the ACC.

A winning culture isn’t sustained overnight, but Young’s tenure at Duke, along with the addition of Romero and other talented coaches in the program's short history, has certainly set the standard for the Blue Devils.

And while a national championship is the ultimate goal for Duke, Romero takes a shorter-term approach to her coaching. To her, it’s all about focusing on one game at a time.

“We don't like to look too far ahead other than our next game, so just competing each pitch and every game is kind of our mentality, and just showing up when it matters,” Romero said. “If we look too far ahead, we miss everything in between. So, (it's important for us to) focus on one game at a time.”

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